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Turn Your Head and Cough #6
by Jason Torchinsky

A few days ago, I think it must have been Arbor Day, if I remember the electricity in the air correctly, I was feeling pretty low. I'm not certain why, call it free-floating anxiety, existential depression, melancholia, pre-menstrual syndrome, or what have you, but the point remains that I was really low.

Now, I don't know about you, since you never write anymore or return any of my calls, but whenever I'm feeling low I like to whip out my harmonica and just play like there's no tomorrow, which, I might add, could happen someday, rendering thousands of calenders useless. So there I was, blowing out through my harp the very essence of my soul, intermixed with a healthy amount of my saliva. Then, next thing I know, my damn professor jerks the harmonica out of my mouth and mumbles some incoherent crap about disturbance and learning and cheetahs or something. That was my soul! I was pouring myself out to them in the purest form I knew and this was how I was repaid! Well, this bearded lady doesn't take that kind of feces. I've got my pride. So I ran out of the room, tears streaming down my face like a little girl who just watched everything she loved get sucked into a roto-press.

I ran bleary-eyed and pell-mell and topsy-turvied and upside-down and a slew of other hyphenated words down McCauley Street to my apartment. I never quite made it, for, as any one who has been metabolizing this past week can tell you, there has been some major road construction going on on the fair McCauley road. Instead I crashed head-first into a large, rectangular ditch in the street. My teeth lay on the bottom of the trench like popcorn and litter on a movie theatre's carpet. I craned my head upwards to call for help, just in time to see a city road crew swilling coffee and laughing as they sealed the trench with one of those huge metal plates that makes your suspension bang when you drive over them.

Driven with anger, I tunneled my way to freedom with my tongue, but, sadly, I tunneled in the wrong direction and ended up on the wrong side of the ditch. Full of new confidence after my daring escape, I attempted to broad jump across the ditch to where I wished to be, only to snag my shoelace on a squirrel at the last minute and end up falling through an uncovered section of the hole I wished I had noticed before I began licking my way through all that compacted dirt.

By this time I had resigned myself to the fact that I was fated to remain in the trench for a least a while, and took advantage of the time for some thoughtful introspection.

I believe I was pondering the question of morality by wondering if someone could be thought of as moral if they only committed evil deeds for "kicks," when an old Subway sub wrapper flitted by my feet. My concentration was shattered, as it invariably is when I'm involved in deep thought and something moves within a five-mile radius of me. I reached out and grabbed the wrapper, intensely interested, mostly out of boredom. After I licked all of the remaining mustard and pulled the few stuck olives and pickles off of the wrapper, I began to read it. Now, despite all of the times I've dined at a Subway, I've never taken the time to read the wrapper, as I'm busy in a frenzy of eating that does not end until someone gets hurt or I become woozy and light-headed.

The wrapper was pretty sparse in words; but those few simple words it did hold were chock full of potential: "8000 stores by 1995." [ed. note: this column was written in 1991] Wow. So direct, so simple. The confidence! Not "Maybe 8000 stores," or "God willing, 8000 stores," just "8000 stores!" Bold! The wrapper seemed to be screaming "I am Subway! Hear me roar!"

From these two words and twin numbers my mind began to reel. Later on, I told a variety of people about Subway's goals for market penetration, and while some claimed it to be "a wonderful proof of the human spirit," others merely dismissed it as nothing more than a "pure, unqualified victory for mankind." You may well wonder what I hope to achieve by bring all of this up. If not, take the opportunity to do so now. There. That's better. What do I hope to achieve? Well, silly, the same thing I hope to achieve every week--lots of rambling text to give this newspaper a reason to run my goofy photograph every Friday. And also, I submit for your pleasure this little flight of fancy: The Subway corporation, after having pledged a sacred oath to have 8000 stores across these 43 beautiful states of America, is all of a sudden plagued by bad management or business or something along those lines, around, oh, say, this year and through 1994. Then, major internal reforms are imposed, and the company regains its standing in the middle of 1994. Now here comes the fun part. After conducting a technical procedure known as "counting," the Subway corporation realizes that they only have, oh, 2467 stores and it's already July of 1994.

Most of the company thinks the president will just have to forget about those remaining 5533 stores, but they didn't count on the president being a fanatical lunatic, which, for the sake of this imaginative journey, we'll say he is. He'd rather die than not live up to his promise, he bellows, running down the halls of the Subway headquarters in nothing but a pair of flippers.

So Subway begins a frenzy of opening stores, buying a single plot of land and opening five or six separate Subways all in the same building. Subways are opened in airports, on airplanes, city buses, and, in the final days of 1994, even on elevators.

Soon every available plot of land and a few forcibly annexed private homes (mine included) would be rapidly transformed into crude, makeshift Subway sandwich stores. Then, finally on New Years Eve, 1994, Subway will have completed its 8001st store, achieving and surpassing their goal in spite of fate's cruel conspiracy.

During the ensuing celebration, at about 11:45 pm, December 31, 1994, some drunk, ungainly employee will accidently park his or her go-cart too close to the bun warmer, sending that Subway and the two others in the building exploding in a ball of flame, a flame reminiscent of the time a couple of friends of mine (me included) were lighting gaseous excretions in my 10th grade biology class, or so say some sources, as I was unconscious most of that year. Thank-you, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you enjoyed that little flatulence reference, and, most importantly, my little fable about Subway. I think we all learned something from the experience. I know I did. At any rate, I bid all of you good night, since I'd like to believe that most of you, dearest readers, read this column to lull you into happy slumber. Solidarity.

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© copyright 2000 The Van Gogh-Goghs